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Get Out of Town – Staunton, Virginia

Photo courtesy xJason.Rogersx

Get Out of Town is a series that profiles beer destinations outside of the greater DC area.  It’s designed to give you, the reader, an idea of the great beer within reach of our nation’s capitol.  We welcome suggestions for further stops in the comments section.  DCBeer strongly advocates for responsible drinking and reminds you to always have a designated driver when traveling in areas outside of the coverage of public transportation.

Staunton is a quaint town nestled at the foot of Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  It’s a great spot for weekend hikers – under three hours’ drive from DC and resting between the Blue Ridge Mountains and George Washington National Forest.  There’s a full-scale replica of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse, plus it’s the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson.  And, perhaps most importantly, it’s home to some quality beer.

On the northside of town is Queen City Brewing, a tiny operation with a surprisingly large number of offerings – everything from dunkelweizen to California common.   All of their beers are sold in growler fills, mix-6 packs, and Party Pigs(??); before you buy, take a tour of the facility and try the free samples so you know what to bring home with you.  You can even brew on premises.  If you’re not convinced, check out the epic commercial for their Russian Imperial Stout.  I’m sold.

Right along Staunton’s main drag, Beverley Street, is the Baja Bean Company.  At first, it looks like any old American Mexican joint – bright colors, enormous burritos, sombrero-wearing bean mascot.  But take a look at those beers listed on the chalkboard.  Is that really Aventinus?  For under $6??  In a branded glass, no less?!?  If you step out the front door and pop around the corner, you can find their cantina: a dimly lit, less family-focused haven with the same beer list and a small stage for local bands.

A few storefronts down is Shenandoah Pizza, a funky little joint with tiled floors and local art adorning the walls. With over 200 quality beers on hand, you’re sure to find a brew to suit you.  During my last visit, I had a Highland Gaelic Ale out of North Carolina, a well-balanced, straight-ahead American amber, aka the perfect pizza beer.  Just make sure you ask for a non-frosted glass.

Before leaving town, stock up on a few bottles at Shenandoah Hops, a great, though tiny, bottle shop run by the Shenandoah Pizza guy.  The owner does a solid job sourcing brews we don’t find up this way, including Roanoke Railhouse and Weeping Radish, and is more than happy to talk shop.

On the way back to DC, swing down Interstate 64 to visit three of the area’s best breweries.  Right off the highway is the Blue Mountain Brewery, whose large brewpub and minuscule parking lot are packed full of locals.  The Hibernator Doppelbock and Mandolin Tripel are particularly tasty, and the view of the Blue Ridge range is not to be missed.  A bit further south is the Devils Backbone Brewpub, a beautiful stone lodge with taxidermied animals staring down at the long bar.  Their Gold Leaf Lager, Vienna Lager, and Wintergreen Weiss have all fared well at the GABF in recent years. Check out DCBeer’s post on them here. Last but not least is Starr Hill Brewery, makers of The Love, Jomo Lager, and Dark Starr.  Visit their tasting room to sample some of their more obscure offerings and fill up the last of your many growlers before heading homeward.

You can find lots of info on hotels, attractions, and the rest at Visit Staunton.

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